Space views of penguin ‘poo’ yield insights

Using satellite observations of Antarctica to search for penguin guano (poo) may not sound like the most exciting research, but it’s providing scientists with unique insights on the Adélie penguin’s diet and the effect that changes in that diet might have on the Adélie’s future.

Adélie penguin populations have declined significantly in some areas even as the global population increases. Scientists want to understand why these changes have occurred since they may indicate a change in the Southern Ocean environment or the availability of penguin prey.

A NASA-funded team recently unlocked some long-standing secrets about the Adélie penguin—a species that can provide an early-warning of threats to Antarctica’s delicate ecosystem. Casey Youngflesh, a graduate student from Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, along with Stony Brook associate professor Heather Lynch, are part of the team that has been tapping into Landsat satellite imagery to see if the Adélie’s diet has been changing in response to Antarctica’s changing climate.

Over the last few years, Lynch and other scientists have been using satellite data to track the distribution and abundance of penguins across the barren landscape of Antarctica. An initial global survey for Adélie penguins turned up 3.8 million breeding pairs.

Original Title: Space views of penguin 'poo' yield insights
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